A great deal of investment, not to mention a wide network of contacts and plenty of chutzpah, was required to launch Within Pictures and Beyond Texts, a quarterly publication that is the first of its kind in China. But founder and publisher Huang Xiaoyan, with her experience in high-profile joint ventures, including Hachette-Phoenix and Macmillan Century, does not lack support, monetary or otherwise. In fact, she has a major incentive to pursue her idea.
“China’s picture book market has been growing very fast in the past 15 years or so,” Huang says. “Today, every children’s book publisher is focused on creating original works, especially about traditional Chinese culture and stories. But there is a lack of professionalism among picture book creators. The illustrators are much more professional than the authors and editors. Through Within Pictures and Beyond Texts, we aim to elevate the industry by sharing knowledge and expertise from researchers and like-minded professionals.”
A collaborative effort with state-owned Nanjing University Press, Within Pictures and Beyond Texts will draw a third of its content from the French journal Hors Cadres. Two other chief editors will join Hors Cadres editor Sophie Van der Linden. “One of them is Leonard Marcus, who will seek contributors from the English-speaking territories for another third of the journal,” Huang says. “The third segment, covering content from Chinese contributors, will be spearheaded by Chen Hui, who is the director of the Chinese Picture Book Research Center at the Beijing Normal University.” The first issue, containing 12 articles on the theme of “imagination,” will launch at the end of March. Marcus will contribute one article, “A World in Which to Find Yourself: The Picture Books of Leo Lionni,” and other U.S. contributors include Ellen Handler Spitz and Kendra Tyson.
Next on Huang’s agenda is the 16-volume 100 Best Children’s Works in the Past 100 Years in China series, another major undertaking. Scheduled for publication this October, to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, this series will cover categories in children’s books including poetry, literature, drama, and fairy tale. Zhejiang Juvenile & Children’s Publishing House is Huang’s collaborator on this project, and both partners will be promoting the series, mostly to school and library markets. The project’s consultants—Ren Rongrong, Jin Bo, Hai Fei, and Gao Hongbo—are among China’s most notable figures in children’s literature, and the chief editors are children’s literature professors from major universities across China.
Meanwhile, the rights collaboration between Everafter Books and Chronicle Books has reached a new milestone. “This collaboration is no longer just about us getting first option rights to all Chronicle picture books,” Huang says. “Chronicle Books is also interested in bringing Chinese titles to the American market.”
In fact, in August 2018, at the launch ceremony for the Chronicle Bridge imprint with Trustbridge Global Media (the investment company behind Everafter Books), top executives from Chronicle Books were attracted to a series with an unusual art style and story line from a hitherto unknown Chinese author. “They ended up buying two titles from us, Hide & Seek and Time to Go Home by Shasha Lv,” says Huang, who signed Lv, one of the top three graduates from the Chinese Art Academy last year. “We will publish all three of her board books, including Clean the Classroom, simultaneously this September. The U.S. editions of Time to Go Home and Hide & Seek are scheduled for spring 2020 and 2021, respectively.”
In a market where many authors write for more than one publisher, Huang’s stance (and insistence) on finding new talent is both refreshing and bold. “Going after big and established names undermines our goal of nurturing homegrown talent and giving these authors the platform to launch their works internationally,” Huang says. She is busy promoting a new creative team: author Zhenzhen and illustrator Chuichui and their book 24 Hours, 24 Professions, One World. “It is a nonfiction picture book about 24 people with different lives and professions coming together to build the world,” Huang says. “It is a highly unusual title compared to what is available in the market.”
Everafter Books, Huang says, “is about providing the best content—originals and translations—for children and the relentless search for outstanding talent to collaborate with us. We want to create original works and IPs that we can promote and sell to overseas partners.”